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Fiat’s return to America heralded by the iconic Italian car

The road snakes steeply upward as we zip from corner to corner, whipping up gravel on the road’s edge, the local greenery fluttering in the car’s tiny wake as we nearly miss larger chunks of rock jutting out on the tightest of curves. Tuscany comes to mind, but this is not Italy. No, we’re in California.

The car, however, is Italian. A Fiat no less. In fact, we’re one of the lucky few to sample the very modern, yet fabulously nostalgic experience of piloting the first Fiat to be sold on these shores in 27 years.

A sign of the changing times, the Fiat 500, or the more fun to say ‘cinquecento’, might be evidence of America’s changing perceptions of small cars. More practically, however, it has come to market as the result of Chrysler’s savior Fiat, which took over the American auto giant and ensured its bankruptcy did not end in liquidation.

Gathered together at the Culy Warehouse in downtown San Diego to introduce the 500, the folks at Fiat North America are seemingly unaware of the brutal irony that this place could be mistaken for a mechanic’s garage.

Along with the usual breakdown of specifications, it’s surprising to learn just who Fiat intends to target with this new model. On the one hand, there’s the obvious lifestyle competitor, the MINI Cooper. On the other hand, there are cars like the Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris.

Spending a day behind the wheel reveals that while pricing is a factor, with the 500 bridging the gap between these two disparate types of small cars, there are numerous other ways the 500 delivers a compelling halfway point between the transportation you need and the fun car you really want.
Read the complete 2012 Fiat 500 Review at AutoGuide.com
 

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1998 Mercedes E320 Sedan 4Matic
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for $15,500, it's outright idiocy. if it was $5,500, it'd have a chance.
 

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U took the old religion from the woman on the hill.
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A true throwback to the halcyon days of Fiat. Ahem.
 

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2008 PT, 1998 neon--1965 VW 1200
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It's a Toluca car-- they screw them together pretty well down there. There aren't any fitment issues in my personal PT-- beyond the ones Daimler designed in ;)

This little car is adorable; it's like a neon and PT adopted a Catholic orphan. My money, however-- is waiting for the MiTo. In purple. With those gorgeous brown leather seats.

P.S. what kind of crack are youall smoking whenever you think $15,500.00 is too much for a fully-optioned car with 5/50k bumper-to-bumper and 3/36 maintenance included? Fit, Fiesta, Accent, Aveo-- They're all priced at the same level.

I don't know, personally, that I'd trust solenoids to run my valves if the engine is of an interference design. Maybe they've engineered a fail-safe into the system wherever they would default closed? It feels terribly rotten to be behind the state-of-the-art, but I sure am more comfortable with a plain old twin-cam with a chain. NVH be damned. Those belts only last 170,000 miles.
 

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'87 300TD/'90 300D/'94 Quattro/'89 Vanagon TDI/'01 EV Weekender VR6
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I'm not as averse to smaller cars as some around here, but I really don't find the design of that particular Fiat to be very appealing aesthetically. Personally, I'd opt for a

VW Polo


or

Audi A3


or

Volvo C30
 

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'87 300TD/'90 300D/'94 Quattro/'89 Vanagon TDI/'01 EV Weekender VR6
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Yeah, I suppose that's more akin to the Polo and 500. Way more attractive than the Fiat.
 

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2008 PT, 1998 neon--1965 VW 1200
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What are the price-points on these cars, Zeit, and when can we buy them in Ohio? You know-- besides the $30k Focus coupe.

You'd seriously drive a Chinese Focus over the Cinquecento? Your bias is hardcore, sir. If I can say this-- you deserve a prize.

This car is where I think I'm most comfortable in an "expensive foreign" car. There's something familiar(and maybe a little bit exotic) about the semi-premium hatchback that I can really get behind. It could be that I've been out of the market too long, but this one seems to check all the right boxes.

Euro style, fully-optioned, 40mpg with modern safety and tech is where it's at right now-- it's the new apricot, and for $17,500 out-the-door. Somehow, this car avoids looking like a transformer both inside and out. I like that. There are entirely too many overwrought Hyundais on the road for any eurocentrist to shun this car.
 

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'87 300TD/'90 300D/'94 Quattro/'89 Vanagon TDI/'01 EV Weekender VR6
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Is the Volvo made in China? If that's so, then it's off the list of potential buys, but it's still prettier than the Fiat. The A3 is available here in Merka, and it's criminal that VAG hasn't brought in the excellent Polo yet.

I wear my bias quite proudly, so the prize is richly earned. I only buy, drive and work on European cars, and I'm too old to change anytime soon.
 

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U took the old religion from the woman on the hill.
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Styling a small car is like trying to tailor a dwarf.
 

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vintage
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The only properly small car that I've truly liked and IMHO doesn't look 'hairdresser' is the Smart Sport.
 

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Since my first own car, back in Poland was Fiat 126, what was close sibling to 500 - I am getting some nostalgia.
Sure posting this topic on Ford Truck forum, that I frequent would do some stirring.
Lot of folks in good ole USA think that the only way to carry their a** to work is 3 tons of steel on 35" wheels.
Than everything changes. I no longer can fill up big car tank for 1hr wages like I did few years back. So the gas guzzlers more and more are parked, while Minis, Smart, Geo, Honda and Volkswagen tdi are getting prime resell values.
Remember couple years back, the 2 years old VW tdi in California was selling for more than original MSRP.
 
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